Attention Span by Gloria Mark [6/10]

Over the past few years, a number of books have been published that deal with the issue of the changing world of the data surrounding us and how we attend to it. Some are How-Tos, some are technical treatises. Attention Span: Finding Focus for a Fulfilling Life, by working computer scientist and researcher Gloria Mark, tackles the science of attention, an empirical story, but with an overlay of practical suggestions. The author is a cogent explainer, the subject matter is familiar but well worth revisiting, with informative wrinkles: multitasking (something I used to swear by) mostly fails; Twitter saps attention; there is nuance in attending to the world. I was intrigued to note that she doesn’t find blocking software at all effective, finding that this does not train our attention muscles. She covers different types of attention, including the controversial issue of “flow.” Algorithms work, not in our favor. Declining attention spans are real but fixable. Chapter 13 is titled “Achieving focus, rhythm and balance.” and she espouses learning to observe one’s social media behavior, moving on to planning in advance, and then to conscious self-regulation. All in all, Attention Span is handy and fun to read.

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